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My Garden Diary

March and April 2014

Copyright © 2014 by David E. Ross

Many years ago, when I first started my Web site, I created an online diary of my gardening activities and observations. However, with work and the commute from Hell, I was often so tired I had to choose between maintaining my garden and maintaining my diary. Sometimes, I did neither. In 1998, I stopped my diary and removed the pages from my Web site.

Now I am retired. I am well-rested and have plenty of time to both garden and maintain a diary. This diary is primarily for my own benefit, so that I can look back upon what I did and when. But I thought others might also be interested, so here it is.

Also see What's Blooming in My Garden Now?


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Entries are in reverse order (latest at the top). Daily, I might stoop to pull a weed or use a hose to water some potted plants; however, I don't consider those significant gardening activities. Thus, you will not see daily entries. Also, I might accumulate a few entries before updating this page on the Web.

When plants have well-known common names, their scientific names are given only the first time they appear on this page (entry closest to the bottom). There, the common name is in bold or appears as a link to another Web page.

Dates refer to other entries in the same year as the entry in which they appear unless a different year is given. However, they may refer to entries on prior pages.

This diary has been visited times since I started it.

Date and Weather Observations and Activities
20 April

Clear, sunny, and mild

Temp: 55-80
Winter chill: 127
Humidity: 43%
Wind: 0-12

Rain —
This season: 5.86
Days since last: 18

Checked the lavender cuttings (9 Mar). One pot had a small root visible along the outside of the potting mix. The other pot showed no roots at all. I'll check again in about two weeks.

Cut more of the eugenia in front (17 Apr). I have completed five of the plants and partially did a sixth.

After lunching on a fistful of kumquats (Fortunella margarita 'Nagami') from my dwarf tree, I resumed trimming the edges of the path between the back lawn and rose bed. For a while, I could not find the stepping stones that cross the rose bed from the path to the drainage catch basin at the foot of My Hill. They were completely covered with pink clover, which I trimmed away after finally locating the stones by probing with the points of my grass shears.

17 April

Overcast, hazy sun, mild

Temp: 50-75
Winter chill: 127
Humidity: 67%
Wind: 6-19

Rain —
This season: 5.86
Days since last: 15

I merely wanted to sweep the driveway in front, to remove the "fallout" from my valley white oak (Quercus lobata). Soon, I was trimming the dwarf coyote bush (Baccharis pilularis) that was growing out of the front rose bed and over the public sidewalk. Then, I gave the pink clover an additional trim (23 & 30 Mar) and weeded the brick panel where 'Goodwin Creek Gray' lavender grows and where utility junctions are located. I surprised myself with how a simple clean-up task just grew and grew.

Trimmed the edges of the path in back between the lawn and rose bed, getting about half-way to the circular bed. I also trimmed around the large flower pot containing my dwarf kumquat.

Started cutting back the eugenia (Syzygium paniculatum) along the east side of the front lawn. It has grown quite large, extending out over the lawn and also over my neighbor's front yard. I finished two of the seven plants and started a third.

There is a broad east-west stripe across the main part of the front yard where the pink clover has not yet turned green or started new growth. I gave it a generous dose of gypsum. When the sprinkler system (irrigating every third day) dissolves the gypsum and starts to leach it into the soil, I will then give that area an extra feeding (16 Mar).

13 April

Clear, sunny, and mild

Temp: 46-70
Winter chill: 127
Humidity: 57%
Wind: 0-17

Rain —
This season: 5.86
Days since last: 11

With the sun higher in the sky, I hung shade cloth on the outside of my greenhouse window. The window is on the north side of the house, but the house is not square on the compass. Thus, the plants in the window get direct sun for a few hours every morning.

Stirred and watered my compost pile. I also added some leaves — mostly oak — from last autumn and some 45-0-0 fertilizer to speed decomposition.

Continued trimming along the path in back between the lawn and west bed. I finished that part and will soon start on the path between the lawn and rose bed.

For some reason, ants keep nesting in my potted tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus). I gave the pot a dilute drench of malathion.

10 April

Overcast (high fog?), gray with occasional hazy sun, warm

Temp: 66-86
Winter chill: 127
Humidity: 8%
Wind: 3-8

Rain —
This season: 5.86
Days since last: 8

Climbed My Hill to broadcast fertilizer, using the same 27-0-6 lawn food that I earlier used on the flat areas of my garden (13 & 16 Mar). This completes my annual general feeding of my garden. I still have to feed the camellias and azaleas, but that must wait until the azaleas finish blooming. Of course, there remains the periodic feeding of my roses and dwarf citrus.

While at the top of My Hill, I trained the grape vine there, again tying some shoots to the supporting wire and heading other shoots.

The puny Artemisia (13 Mar) is dead. I'll have to take cuttings from the others, but not until the lavender cuttings (9 Mar) are well rooted.

9 April

Clear, sunny, and warm

Temp: 64-88
Winter chill: 127
Humidity: 7%
Wind: 0-10

Rain —
This season: 5.86
Days since last: 7

Climbed the lower part of My Hill to train the two grape vines there. I tied a number of shoots to the supporting wire and headed other shoots. I'll deal with the third grape vine when I climb to the top of My Hill to broadcast fertilizer.

Trimmed some more along the path between the lawn and west bed. This included trimming around the potted dwarf lemon tree.

Picked three ripe lemons to make two glasses of lemonade to have with lunch. I didn't want to use and then clean the electric juice extractor for such a small amount of juice, so I used a hand juicer. With the hand juicer, it took far longer to make the lemonade than it took to drink it. Since I have type-2 diabetes, I used only half the amount of sugar indicated in the recipe. I enjoyed the tartness, but my wife added sugar to hers.

6 April

Clear, sunny, and warm

Temp: 55-80
Winter chill: 127
Humidity: 18%
Wind: 1-16

Rain —
This season: 5.86
Week: 0.03

Potted the Dracaena cuttings (13 Dec 2013 & 19 Feb) along with the Cordyline (possibly C. fruticosa) that was in my greenhouse window. This arrangement replaces the Dracaena that was in my living room for several years before it began to decline. Both the Dracaena and the Cordyline have similar growth patterns — a single trunk with strap-like leaves — but slightly different growing requirements. While they both can take strong indirect light as house plants, the Cordyline needs more water than the Dracaena. I hope to compromise the watering enough to keep them both happy.

Started trimming the edges of the lawn and beds in back along the decomposed granite paths. This is something I have to do 2-3 times every year. The first trim is generally the most difficult because the lawn and ground covers continued to grow through the winter when I did not trim at all.

Released Cleopatra from her house. This might not seem like a gardening task; but she does roam the back yard, feeding on the grass, rose petals, some weeds, and other plants. It's a bit early for her to end hibernation, but the winter was quite warm. She was already at the doorway of her house, waiting to exit.

3 April

Clear, sunny, and cold

Temp: 43-68
Winter chill: 127
Humidity: 44%
Wind: 0-13

Rain —
This season: 5.86
Week: 0.16

Since the start of April, we have had several hours of temperatures at or below 45°F. Since my peach tree is almost through blooming, the various varieties of narcissus finished blooming, and my roses are all starting to bloom, this winter chill is far too late even if I counted chill after the end of March. In any case, it would still be too little: If I included those April hours, the total chilld would still be only 150, less than any other winter in the past 14 winters.

Fed the dwarf citrus, gardenia, and Australian tea tree (Leptospermum laevigatum) with ammonium, iron, and zinc sulfates. They all require acidic soil, which will result from these sulfates. Three of the citrus are in large pots with quick-draining potting mix; the fourth is in a raised bed, also with a well draining soil mix. Nutrients leach away quickly, so I feed them lightly every three weeks during their growing season. Citrus especially requires zinc for proper leaf growth and to set fruit. Gardenias appreciate abundant nutrients; they will drop their unopened flower buds if they lack sufficient zinc. On the recommendation from my favorite landscape contractor, I also gave the tea tree some magnesium sulfate (Epsom salts) to prevent chlorosis.

30 March

Quite variable, changing back and forth between clear and cloudy, gray and very sunny, mild and cold.

Temp: 47-68
Winter chill: 127
Humidity: 39%
Wind: 0-24 (gusts to 34)

Rain —
This season: 5.70
Week: 0.04

Finished trimming in front around the pink clover lawn, including finishing along the public sidewalk and the driveway. I also finished trimming the dwarf ivy around the liquidambar tree. Finally, I trimmed around several sprinkler heads in front where the pink clover interfered with efficient irrigation.

It appears I might have a cracked sprinkler line in front. When the sprinklers are running, there is excessive water pouring over the sidewalk. I'll have to call my favorite landscape contractor to check it.

Lightly trimmed the potted herbs in back. I also trimmed one of the lavender bushes that was crowding some of the herb pots.

For some reason, several branches on the pineapple guava (Feijoa sellowiana) are broken. I can't prove it, but I suspect a raccoon or overweight squirrel. Although I planned not to prune the guava this year, I nevertheless had to cut away the damage.

27 March

Cloudy, occasional hazy sun, cool

Temp: 45-67
Winter chill: 127
Humidity: 48%
Wind: 0-14

Although the temperature last night touched 45°F, it did not stay there long enough for any additional winter chill to accumulate. This may be the warmest winter in the 14 years for which I have collected data.

Fed the roses in front and back with a commercial 6-9-6 fertilizer that also contains a systemic insecticide. While I was doing that, I noticed the hollyhocks (Alcea rosea) in back are infested with a leaf miner. Since systemics are the only effective way to treat leaf miners, I gave each hollyhock a small dose of the same fertilizer.


Rain —
This season: 5.70
Week: 0.04

23 March

Thin scattered clouds, mostly sunny, and mild

Temp: 48-70
Winter chill: 127
Humidity: 53%
Wind: 0-12

Trimmed most of the pink clover (Persicaria capitata) camera icon in front along the public sidewalk and the brick path to the front door. I still have to trim along the driveway and the shrub beds.

The potted California fan palm (Washingtonia filifera on the brick path looks sad. I gave it some extra water (beyond what the lawn sprinklers provide) and a pinch of ammonium sulfate.


Rain —
This season: 5.66
Days since last: 21

20 March

Cloudy, mostly gray with occasional hazy sun, cool

Temp: 64-76
Winter chill: 127
Humidity: 22%
Wind: 0-11

Rain —
This season: 5.66
Days since last: 18

Bought sage (Salvia officinalis) and basil (Ocimum basilicum) in small plastic pots and repotted them in much larger clay pots. In the summer, moisture slowly evaporates through the sides of the clay pots, keeping the plant roots from cooking in the sun. Although sage is supposed to be perennial, mine always seem to die at the beginning of spring. On the other hand, basil is usually treated as an annual; but last year's basil was still alive. Since the basil looked quite shabby, however, I decided to replace it. The pots will remain on the patio in the shade of my house until they are well established; then, I will move the pots into my garden and part-sun.

I went to two nurseries looking for dill (another annual), but it was not available.

Gave the mailbox in front a haircut, trimming the dwarf English ivy that I trained to grow on it. While working in that area, I also removed some weeds from the parkway.

16 March

Clear, sunny, and hot

Temp: 67-86
Winter chill: 127
Humidity: 11%
Wind: 0-18

Rain —
This season: 5.66
Days since last: 14

Finally removed the remainder of The Tree's leaves from last year from the patio.

Finished pruning the Artemisia (9 & 13 Mar).

Fed the front yard with the same 27-0-6 fertilizer that I used in back (13 Mar). I still have to feed My Hill. That will have to wait until shortly before I run the sprinklers there. With the rains we had at the end of last month and the beginning of this month, I won't irrigate My Hill for at least another week.

Trimmed the dwarf English ivy (Hedera helix 'Hahn's') around the liquidambar tree (L. styraciflua). Not only was it climbing the tree, but it was also spreading into the pink clover (Persicaria capitata) lawn.

13 March

Scattered clouds, mostly sunny, and mild

Temp: 50-73
Winter chill: 127
Humidity: 20%
Wind: 0-19

Rain —
This season: 5.66
Days since last: 11

Tested the sprinkler system yesterday. I saw three heads where plants were obstructing the spray. With drought conditions and the possibility of water rationing, any inefficiency in an irrigation system needs prompt correction. I immediately trimmed around one head in the back yard. Today, I trimmed around two heads in front.

Fed the back yard — both the lawn and the beds — with a house-brand 27-0-6 fertilizer. This is actually a lawn food, but it is quite suitable for use as a general-purpose fertilizer. I avoided feeding around the camellias, azaleas, roses, and dwarf citrus; these all get special feedings at other times.

Pruned two more Artemisia (9 Mar). One is somewhat puny. I might put up cuttings for rooting to replace it, but that will have to wait until the lavender cuttings are well rooted (also 9 Mar).

9 March

Scattered clouds, mostly sunny, and warm

Temp: 64-83
Winter chill: 127
Humidity: 10%
Wind: 1-9

Rain —
This season: 5.66
Week: 0.01

Fed the dwarf citrus and gardenia (G. jasminoides 'Veitchii') with commercial citrus food plus a small amount of zinc sulfate.

Put up four cuttings of 'Goodwin Creek Grey' lavender (Lavandula lanata × dentata), two to a pot.

Put poison snail bait in the potted dwarf citrus and Alstroemeria. I don't use this bait on the ground because it will also kill the carnivorous snails that are supposed to prey on the destructive brown snails. Furthermore, I definitely do not want Cleopatra to munch on toxic dead snails; she cannot reach into the pots.

Pruned an Artemisia 'Powis Castle' to start this annual task. There are only four more to do. There are two others, recently planted from rooted cuttings (e.g., 19 Feb); but they are too small to require pruning this year.

3 March

Cloudy, gray, and cool

Temp: 47-69
Winter chill: 127
Humidity: 52%
Wind: 0-15

The rains finally came. We got more rain so far in the current rain year (October to September) than during the entire prior rain year. However, that was a extremely dry year so this generous rainfall did not really end the drought.

Trimmed the weeping Chinese banyans (Ficus benjamina) on the front porch. It had grown so tall but thin that it was leaning over and blocking the front door.


Rain —
This season: 5.66
Week: 4.73

Weather data are from the Cheeseboro (CHE) weather station, about 2 miles ENE of my house.

The high temperature (°F) is daytime for the indicated date; the low temperature (°F) is for the previous night.

Winter chill is the cumulative hours of temperatures at or below 45°F from 1 November through 31 March. It is reported during that period and through April.

The relative humidity is at noon. (In my garden, it is likely higher than reported, a result of regular irrigation.)

Wind speeds (mph) are average (not peak) low and high, midnight to midnight (subject to later correction for diary entries posted before the end of the day). I also indicate peak wind gusts parenthetically when they are significantly high.

Rain is in inches. Rain amounts are omitted after 60 consecutive days elapse without any measurable amount. Season is the cumulative amount of rainfall from 1 October until 30 September of the following year. Week is the cumulative amount of measurable rainfall from noon seven days ago until noon of the indicated date. If no rain fell in that period, Days since last is reported.

Characterization of the weather (e.g., Clear, sunny, and warm) is purely subjective; for example, "warm" might occur with higher temperatures than "hot" if the former occurs with lower humidity and more breezes than the latter. Also, a day that would normally be characterized as "mild" might instead be "warm" if the immediately previous days were quite cold. Finally, such characterization reflects when I was actually outside and gardening and ignores changes that occur while I am inside.

The signature line I use when writing messages about my garden includes the following:

Climate: California Mediterranean
Sunset Zone: 21 -- interior Santa Monica Mountains with some ocean influence (USDA 10a, very close to Sunset Zone 19)
See also The Climate.
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